Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Witnessing to Dispensationalists

by Ken Gentry, Th.D., Director, NiceneCouncil.com

My Background Training

When I was a student at a dispensationalist college in Tennessee, the faculty continually emphasized that proper methods are essential for successfully witnessing to unbelievers. Because of their commitment to methodology, in the view of the administration and faculty the most important early church father was evangelist Charles G. Finney. (They noted that he was not real, real early, but that he was certainly earlier than any of the faculty — most of whom were fathers.) Finney’s important contribution to evangelism lies in the fact that he invented the "anxious bench" that was so vital for helping the sinner to convert himself.

Super church pastor Jack Hills spoke frequently in our chapel services. He emphasized how very important it was for soul-winners to use mouthwash, so as not to turn off the unbeliever who opens the door when you come knocking. He pointed out that it would be a tragedy if on Judgment Day some poor sinner was denied entry into heaven because you ate cabbage-wrapped bockwurst the day he met you. Because there were so many eager students gathered on one campus, many debates broke out regarding the best brand of mouth wash to use. This was never fully resolved in that the school year lasted only nine months.

We also learned from John R. Oats the importance of using a piano rather than an organ in evangelistic services. He pointed out that the slow building crescendo of a note on an organ was not as effective as the staccato, piercing sound of the piano. He emphasized how urgency was better promoted by a piano than an organ.(Dr. Oats even pointed out exegetically that no verse in all of the Bible mentions the electric organ.)

Tragically some students went out immediately and started smashing organs as "instruments of the devil." One was even electrocuted because he used an iron crowbar that conducted electricity when it penetrated the electronic components within the organ. Needless to say, at his funeral we heard only the piano as we were all urged to come forward. Many of the students were born-again once again as they crowded the church aisles. And this was all because of this well-orchestrated funeral service. This student truly laid down his life for his friends.

My Personal Challenge

With these practical matters in mind, I have developed a helpful approach for witnessing to dispensationalists. I have seen too many erstwhile Reformed theologues stumble away from a fruitless encounter with a dispensationalist. They slink away with the profound realization regarding their dispensationalist friend: "the lights are on, but nobody's home."

My method helps soften up the resistance, so as not to turn off the dispensationalist as he scours the newspaper for material for next Sunday’s message. I hope that these ideas might prove helpful to you as you seek to minister to dispensationalists in the highways and byways. And in the Christian bookstores, and trinket shops. And at prophecy conferences and church camps. And on church basketball teams, and baseball teams, and bowling leagues, and badminton leagues. And so forth, and so on.

You can say one thing for dispensationalists: they certainly have been fruitful and multiplied. Perhaps the methods I suggest below might even be helpful for you to start an effective church slimming seminar. I know these have certainly worked for me.

My Recommended Method

When witnessing to dispensationalists, you will find the following recommendations quite effective.

(1) When approaching a dispensationalist, never — never! — walk up from behind. They are always looking up, absorbed in contemplation, eagerly awaiting the Rapture. Thus, any sudden movement from behind might scare them, turning them off as potential converts. Plus it may result in their mercilessly stabbing you with their gold-plated Bible marker.

(2) In fact, if you really want to be successful in your witness to dispensationalists, buy a convertible and let them actually see you drive up in it. They will realize how seriously you take the any-moment Rapture and how prepared you are for it. (Be aware though: They will immediately look to your bumper to make sure you have a bumper sticker that says: "In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned." You must always have the proper bumper sticker prominently displayed. And don’t buy defective bumper stickers, such as the one that says: "In case of rupture this car will be un-manned.")

(3) If you are earnest in your desire to effectively witness to dispensationalists, you should always have a Scofield Reference version of the King James Bible with you. As you approach them, be sure to have the Bible out in front of you with the cover clearly visible. When they see the gold lettering "Scofield Reference Bible," they will at once find perfect peace.

(4) I highly recommend also that you carefully fray the pages of the Book of Revelation. The dispensationalists will see this and believe that you are diligent student of Revelation and one of them. This will cause them to be warmed and filled. They might even spontaneously erupt with their favorite greeting: "Maranatha!"

(5) Though some Reformed evangelists discourage this in our litigious society, I believe that it is always a good idea to accidentally bump dispensationalists when first approaching. This proves to them that you are literal, and not some spiritual interpretation. This will make them believe you are on the same wave-length. (Some may believe in the corpuscular theory of light, but statistics show that the average dispensationalist believes in the wave theory --- after all, it is easier to think about. Always, always, always go with the law of averages.)

(6) Before you open your mouth to speak, let them see the colorful charts you have carefully placed in your shirt pocket. (Wearing pocketless tee-shirts is not recommended; when you go hunting, dress for the hunt. You wouldn’t want someone to miss the Rapture because you chose to wear some tee-shirt with a cheesy slogan on it, would you? I didn’t think so.) Once they see the colorful graphics they will surmise that you are either a dispensationalist or a Jehovah’s Witness, giving you a 50/50 chance to engage them in conversation.

(7) When you first begin speaking to the unwary dispensationalist, end each sentence with a confident sounding: "according to biblical prophecy." They will hear this and be intrigued. I would recommend also that you do something that strikes people as Jewish. But be careful, don’t over do it. Many dispensationalists don’t trust people with biblical looking beards. (This is an odd inconsistency in their worldview that I don’t have space here to discuss. Besides, I am tired.)

(8) A good conversation starter would be something on the order of:

"Hey, did you hear the latest date predicting the Rapture? This is not some ‘off-the-wall’ stuff. I actually heard it from a televangelist!"

Or perhaps:

"Did you read in the news there was another earthquake? How many does that make this year? Don’t you enjoy living like a person who doesn’t expect to be around much longer? I know I do."

A dispensationalist finds it impossible to turn away from such salient and intriguing information. In fact, they may pull out their own Scofield Reference Bible and take some notes based on your comments. You have primed the pump. I often drop into conversations that I lived in California for several years, consequently, I have personally felt earthquakes.

(9) You are now ready to engage them properly. But, darn. I forgot what I was going to say. I hate it when that happens. One time my mind wandered all the way to Venus and ordered a meal I couldn’t afford. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

12 comments:

Dorothy said...

There are times when you just have to have a good laugh and I did with this post.

I have a family member who actually teaches dispensationalism, so when we had the opportunity to sit down and discuss our views, I opened my Bible prepared to go to scripture. I mentioned the Olivet Discourse and some highlights from those texts. He looked at me with this blank stare and asked me what the Olivet Discourse was and what did it have to do with Revelation.

I started to explain that Matt 24, Mark 13 & Luke 21 were his support texts, but I quickly realized that we were not going to have a fruitful conversation when I'm having to show him his case before I present mine. lol

So I closed up my Bible and we discussed the weather.

Maybe I need to try your method next time. Obviously, my approach failed miserably and I've always wanted a convertable. lol

Dr. Mike Kear said...

Sweet!

EPIMENOS said...

Funny.

Though I must admit: I feel a little sorry for you. My dispensational days were not filled interacting with such superstitious hicks (and I'm from Kentucky!).

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!

Rev. said...

I liked the bit about the student with the crowbar electrocuting himself when smashing the organ; then all the students being born-again again while the piano played at the funeral. Funny!

NewKidontheBlogg said...

Too funny!Of course they would be offended it they felt you were witnessing to them. They try to witness to you!

NewKidontheBlogg said...

Too funny. Meanwhile they are thinking they are witnessing to you!

Anonymous said...

What bothers me most about the Dispensationalists is their rejection or ignorance of Covenant Theology and their vehement opposition to our children's and grandchildren's covenant baptism. Moreover,their forcing a second baptism upon them. I find this detestable.

Puritan Lad said...

Hilarious, even more so because it is so true.

I have a diehard dispensationalist neighbor who recently remarked that a new star has just entered our solar system. It has been given the name "wormwood". (Of course, it can't be much of a star if it can fit into a body of water on our planet, but why get nitpicky?)

Anonymous said...

After being fed Dipsysensationalism for nearly 40 years in more-or-less "exclusive" Brethrenism, this actually got a good chuckle out of me - thanks for writing and posting it. While I haven't seen these extremes, there have been some similar extreme thinking in other areas.

I've started to wonder recently, if the Rapture was Paul's point to the Thessalonians, did it do them much good now that they are dead and didn't experience it? Folks, the Lord could return at any time or.... you could be "One heartbeat away" as evangelist Mark Cahill puts it!

Anonymous said...

I sense a mocking, uncharitable tone here.
You are never going to win dispensationalists by making fun of them. Just a thought.

Brother Jim said...

When I was first saved as a teenager, the only discussion on prophecy I recall was a sort of generalized pre-millenialism. As soon as I returned to CA from back east, I found that dispensationalism was all the rage (Calvary Chapel influence). It had a profound affect in our personal lives; many of us wondered if we would have the opportunity to even get married before the Lord returned.

I put in many hours of study and finally studied at a Bible School affiliated with Dallas Theological Seminary. I was given a book by Ralph Woodrow by a friend, which knocked some holes in my Dispensational Views. I struggled over this issue for years as many churches made this an article of Faith for fellowship; if you didn't subscribe, you were a liberal, if not a heretic. I stumbled into Full Preterism online and it was a jolt, but I felt, on my own, that it went too far and was too Gnostic. I especially struggled with the Olivet Discourse. I then read RC Sproul's, "The Last Days According to Jesus", which was a Reader's Digest compilation of some other things I had read, but I liked it. What really helped me along the way was Gary DeMar's series, recently on NRB. Dr. Gentry's work on the Dating of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast was paradigm changing! I can't say that I have all the answers, yet, but I know where they're not (i.e. Dispensationalism).

In particular, I think the truthfulness of the Gospel is at stake. If we follow an Eschatology that is so full of contradictions and conjecture, what does that say about our Gospel Message (i.e. Is it just men's opinions, too?--Of course not!). I likewise like the way that this view engages this world and gives God His due glory and speaks of the Gospel actually doing what it's supposed to do. I am very encouraged by it's optimism and find it consistent with the totality of Scripture. Many Thanks to Drs. Gentry, Demar and many others.